THE RAIL Minister claims passengers on one of Yorkshire’s major railways will receive a better – and potentially faster – service after electrification plans were controversially dropped.
Under-fire Paul Maynard made the assertion in a letter to Brexit Secretary David Davis after the Haltemprice and Howden MP forwarded complaints from concerned constituents in Brough about the decision not to electrify the section of the route between Hull and Selby.
Coming days after the Tory minister defended a 2.3 per cent increase in rail fares because wages are increasing at a faster rate, his comments were met with incredulity by those who believe that East Yorkshire travellers are being shortchanged.
“Hull people pay taxes and ever-higher fares, and are frequently assured by Ministers that we’re part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’,” said Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Hull North. “But even when private finance is available for rail electrification, Hull doesn’t get a fair share of the infrastructure investment that is going elsewhere.”
However Mr Maynard says new rolling stock being ordered by First Hull Trains for its services from East Yorkshire to London will be dual purpose and powered by either electricity or diesel.
“Journey times will remain as now but the possibility exists to provide faster journeys in the future through the train’s higher maximum speed (225 km/h),” wrote the Minister in his first detailed justification of his decision and published by The Yorkshire Post today. “Passengers travelling to Hull will see these benefits as soon as the trains enter service in 2019; without the need for electrification of the Selby to Hull route.”
Mr Maynard says passengers will enjoy faster journey times to the capital when Virgin Trains East Coast introduces its new fleet of Azuma trains in 2018 while the new Arriva Rail North franchise is committed to running two services per hour between Leeds and Hull.
Significantly, the Minister says the new trains being built for this route will have dual technology enabling them to travel across the Pennines seamlessly from Hull to the North West once the Manchester to Selby section of the TransPennine express route is electrified.
“Given the number of passenger benefits already being delivered without electrification, there is almost no further benefit to justify further publicly-funded investment and the disruption electrification would bring,” he added.
“As a result of using dual-fuelled trains, passenger benefits can be delivered without the significant disruption of electrification, where passengers have had months of either complete line closure or midweek nights and weekend closure. There are also disruptive road works, where road bridges have to be rebuilt to accommodate the new wires underneath.”
Mr Maynard said improvements to Hull and Selby stations would still take place.
Is it all change on the railways?
NETWORK Rail is to be stripped of its control over Britain’s railway tracks, with new powers being passed to the train operators in a major reorganisation of the system.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling wants the publicly-owned Network Rail that he wants it to share responsibility for running the tracks with the private operating companies.
The move would mean companies such as Virgin would for the first time be given responsibility for maintenance and repairs, ending Network Rail’s monopoly.
Mr Grayling – who will set out his plans in a speech on Tuesday – believes it would incentivise the operators to carry out the work more quickly and thereby reduce delays.